You already see yourself on that dream trip. Your cappucino’s aromas waft toward you as you sit at that little outdoor cafe in Venice. You watch the gondolas floating by in the sun, soaking in the spring air, taking in the city and this stage of your life. You’re a senior traveller – but astute and prepared for this trip.
Even now, the anticipation is part of the journey, because… you love to travel. You’re already enjoying this trip – even while you plan it – as part of the fruits of your many years of labor.
At this stage of life, you’ve discovered the happiness and fulfillment that comes from delayed gratification. But, at this stage of life, you also know you’ve delayed enough already.
You’re ready to gratify.
But as you do, just remember:
Enjoy the journey; don’t be taken for a ride.
As a senior traveller, you value adequate preparation before you go. And you’ve learned to be appropriately careful.
While you enjoy the idea of being there, you know the wisdom of being informed and well-prepared for these long-anticipated new adventures.
You don’t just want to travel. You want to travel smart and purposefully. Read on for how to do just that.
Know your “why.”
As a senior, your travel considerations are as unique as you are. Giving some thought to why you want to travel will help you zero in on which resources you want to access in planning your trip.
What is in this journey for you? Is this a bucket list trip? An educational trip? Are you planning on combining the vacation with a visit to see family?
And who are you travelling with? Are you travelling alone, or with one of many senior travel groups that are out there?
Do you want to travel alone?
Perhaps you’re alone but not by choice. There are options for you, too – options to allow you to feel connected to others as you travel.
So let’s explore some possibilities.
Special Interest Travel: connecting with people who think and feel like you.
In your senior years, you’ve come to appreciate the value of spending time with like-minded people. Sometimes, travelling with people who share common interests makes the journey even more memorable.
Consider travel that caters to your unique special interests.
Travel groups like Special Interest Tours offer trips to various unique destinations like Unesco heritage sites and other prominent historical and science-oriented destinations. They even offer tours to see the next solar eclipse!
Tourador offers over 500 different tours catering to interests as diverse as yoga, South African History and “Ugandan gorilla tours,” where you can see these animals in their native habitats.
Do you like smooth jazz? There are cruises catering to that, too. In short, no matter your interest, it’s likely out there.
Educational Travel: You’re Never Too Old To Learn
Being older doesn’t stop us from learning. It does refine our understanding of what we still want to learn.
“Educational travel” is a way to keep some fun in learning by vacationing in ways and in places where you can be immersed in geography, history and culture to fully appreciate parts of the world you’ve not yet had a chance to explore. Road Scholar, Context Travel and Smithsonian Journeys are organizations targeting in-depth educational travel experiences for seniors.
They’re not the typical vacation. But they are fulfilling for the young-at-heart.
Volunteer Travel: the perks of a “purpose-driven” travel life.
As you get older, you may want to make this world a better place and leave a mark for the next generation. ”Volunteer travel” matches your skills and experiences with places and people in the world who can benefit from your expertise in all kinds of areas.
Organizations like Volunteer HQ and Habitat For Humanity offer economical programs where you can see the world as you participate in housing construction and daycare, or sharing your knowledge in nursing, trades, education or medicine with the less fortunate in this world.
Single Senior Travel: Tours For Seniors Travelling Alone.
Being single doesn’t have to isolate you from the joys of travelling. There are travel companies that specialize in making “solo travel” feel comfortable. Exodus Travels says that two thirds of their guests travel solo.
But a single senior travel experience doesn’t mean uncomfortable and it doesn’t have to mean “alone.” Solo travel can be a group activity, too.
Solo travel has the safety advantages of travelling with an organized group. But you also have the comfort and convenience of things like your own room for sleeping at night. So you can mix and mingle without having to get attached at the hip to a stranger. It’s a great “best-of-both-worlds” choice.
Senior Travel Companions: Going Alone With “A Special Someone.”
Some people are alone and want to be. Variety is the spice of life.
But if you’re one of those people who thinks travelling alone just plain sucks, consider a “travel companion.”
The “senior travel companion” concept is all about finding a “special someone” who wants to take a risk on embarking on a travel adventure with you. It’s not marriage. It doesn’t even have to be about “romance.” It’s more about a commitment to check out a part of the world together for a week or two.
But it can be fun. The novelty of sharing a travel experience with someone new might just be the perfect trip if you’re the adventurous type.
There are organizations like Silver Surfers exploring the how and why of finding others – travel companions – who might enjoy a trip with you.
Healing Travel: Special Places For Widows And Widowers
Life happens. Maybe it’s happened to you. Maybe you’re alone now, but not by choice. Maybe you’ve just lost the love of your life. But you still want to live.
Fear not. There is a time to grieve; and there is a time to heal.
There are camps, weekend retreats and travel organizations for people grieving the loss of a loved one. If you know the unique pain of losing a spouse, this option is worth a look. Some suggestions are:
- Widow Voyages for trips with others who have recently lost a spouse.
- Soaring Spirits for retreats specifically geared to rest, relaxation and healing the loss of a loved one.
Once you’ve zeroed in on the “why,” there is the little issue of paying for the trip. But not to worry. It might not cost as much as you think.
About The Money: Ways To Save On Senior Travel
Travelling as a senior has some financial advantages, if you know what those advantages are.
And let’s face it. You’ve worked hard for your money – enough to value what you had to do to acquire it. There is nothing wrong with conserving cash while you’re having fun. You don’t have to spend a lot to travel well. If you are budget-conscious, here are some ideas for saving some green while you travel.
So, to get the most bang for the buck, consider the following little “perks of age” that almost make getting old worthwhile.
Take advantage of your “time-freedom” in retirement.
One of the things many in younger generations don’t understand until it’s too late is the value of flexibility in your time schedule. As a senior, you’re more likely to be able to have a time-freedom in your life that can yield cash savings on vacation travel.
If you’re flexible, travelling off-season is cheaper. And if you’re willing to be spontaneous, you can take advantage of “last-minute” vacation deals. Websites like Selloff Vacations and Last Minute specialize in helping travellers claim unused motel and cruise ship opportunities that fill at a discount rate.
Watch for senior discounts.
AARP offers discounts specifically for seniors. And sometimes you can use them together with the AAA membership for a greater overall discount.
But they’re not the only seniors’ membership group offering travel discounts. American Seniors offers them, too. They’re a “conservative” organization that sees themself as an alternative to the AARP. A $15 per year membership fee gets you some serious discounts.
Senior travel clubs: good deals at valuable price points.
There are usually senior travel clubs in your city, connecting you with others in your similar stage of life who enjoy travelling.
These clubs charge initiation fees and/or annual dues. But the costs are more than offset by the group discounts they provide to members. And they’ve done the legwork for you in finding economical travel options for this stage of life, saving you cash in the long run.
Senior travel blogs can help save money too. You can benefit from reading about the experiences of others and see how they save money on their trips.
Learn from the wisdom and experience of others and save money in the process.
Travel Extensions: Tools To Help You Save Money Online.
If you’re browsing online for travel deals, there are little “add-ons” called travel extensions that you can load into your internet browser window to “shop for you” while you browse.
You install them once. Then, as you hunt down bargains, these tools offer price-competitive alternatives for you, with useful pop-ups to point you to where you can get the best deal for what you just searched for.
There are a bunch of good ones out there. But these are a couple especially good ones:
- Flight Fare Compare for the best airline deals
- Pruvo for tracking what you’ve already booked (especially hotels) after you’ve booked it in case something better (cheaper) comes along
Frugal Senior Travel: Non-Standard (But INEXPENSIVE) Travel Options
If you’re flexible, some of these ideas can really save some bucks. Check these out if you’re “budget-conscious.”
Consider the new “frugal standard.”
Air BnB is a website specializing in helping homeowners share accommodations like spare rooms in their homes or unused vacation properties. You can find some good accomodations for much less than what a motel will cost you in a comparable location.
Each listing has ratings from previous guests.
The ratings help you see if others before you found any unpleasant experiences. Like the Holiday Inn says, “the best surprise is no surprise.”
If you’re more daring, consider “hostelling.”
HostelWorld defines hostelling as “a budget-friendly type of accommodation that focuses on a shared social experience.” They typically have private sleeping areas but with shared common areas designed to cater to the budget-minded traveller.
Contrary to what you might think, hostels are not just for the young. As Margaret Manning from Sixty and Me says, they’re perfect for older women travelling alone.
And for the really frugal (or the truly “adventurous.”..)
Couch Surfing is a trendy idea that serves the wanderlust of people who want to travel on a shoestring budget. People literally provide you a place to sleep on their living room couch.
It’s not for everyone. But it’s becoming quite a thing.
If your budget is so tight you realize you retired too early, but you still have the travel bug anyway; or if you are comfortable living on the edge and feeling really daring, check it out.
Special needs? You’ve Got This.
Special needs don’t have to prevent a needed vacation.
Limited Mobility Doesn’t Have To Limit You
Unfortunately, age can take a toll on our health. But limited mobility that comes with age doesn’t have to be a hindrance to travel.
If you’re new to travelling with limited mobility, there are resources available with tips on things like finding vacation destinations with the best wheelchair access. If you need a travel agent to help plan a vacation where wheelchair access is a concern, consider:
- Disabled Access Travel for travel in North America;
- Easy Access Travel for a specialist in accessibility on cruises;
- Sage Traveling for European vacations.
And if this is your first trip with oxygen, don’t worry. You can do this. But the essentials you need to know:
- You can take it on a plane;
- Be sure to carry documentation from your doctor, if you do, to verify that it is a legitimate medical need
- Make sure the letter says you’re fit to travel.
Even dialysis doesn’t have to be a barrier to travel.
There are cruises specifically equipped for dialysis patients and their families. Dialysis At Sea makes cruising possible, offering “freedom to explore and visit some of the most exotic destinations once thought impossible to do as a dialysis patient.”
The TSA And You: Provisions For Seniors
TSA provides for “easier screening” for people 75 years of age or older.
But, for the highlight reel:
- Don’t worry about removing your shoes if you’re over 75.
- If you can’t go through x-ray checks, you can be accommodated by other means.
- They know how to deal with implanted devices (pacemakers and metal hip implants, for instance). Just let the screeners know what you’ve got and they can bypass you through without the standard x-ray tests.
- You can travel with your medications and oxygen too.
- Medications get a pass on the rules for the amounts of liquids you can carry, too. Just make sure they’re clearly marked. If any doubt, a doctor’s note is helpful.
They also give details on the TSA site for concerns about travellers with vision problems, alzheimer’s, respiratory equipment and the like.
18 Senior Travel Tips – Before You Go And While You’re Away.
Tips for before you go.
1 – Consider the mobile travel apps available to you such as Google Maps and Google Translate.
In this age of smart phones, it always pays to consider putting some good travel apps on your mobile devices.
Google Maps is one indispensable app that has some fascinating trick features. See a YouTube tutorial here for some really cool tricks.
And if you’ve not seen it, “Google Translate” is an amazing tool for translating written text, and (if you load a language module for it into your smartphone) even on the fly.
This is some amazing technology, for sure. If you load a language module on your smartphone (say, Spanish) then you can point your phone at a Spanish sign and see it display what it means in English – in real time.
See a YouTube tutorial here.
2 – Pay the bills, set the investments to “auto-pilot.”
Consider pre-paying recurring bills so you don’t have overdue bills if you are delayed getting home. And don’t forget to check your investments before you go so you can forget about them while you’re gone.
3 – Have multiple ways to pay
Having credit cards from more than one bank is smart. You don’t always know if a particular card might present an issue. Also, remember that American Express is well accepted in North America; but in Europe, not so much.
Also, some places don’t take cards. Have access to cash for smaller transactions in foreign countries. Not too much, as you don’t want to lose it all with a single careless reach into your pocket or anything. But having a little is always a good idea.
Check out the YouTube video below for some useful ideas on how much of what to bring for paying for the trip.
4 – Inspect your gadgets
Carry spare cables and a spare charger for the phone. Don’t forget the voltage converter if you’re going abroad. World Standards provides a quick reference for which countries have what voltages and plugs.
If in doubt, replace your phone or iPad batteries before you go. They hold their charge longer when new, too.
5 – You Need A House-sitter – Even If You Don’t Have A Dog.
You need someone in your house (and even in your condo) when you’re not there. There are more reasons than one.
First of all, it keeps the place looking lived in. Whether or not you notice them, there just might be curious folk around you who notice when the place is vacant.
And yes. Your chances of having a plumbing break or a break-in are small. But hey! Just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you, right?
But seriously, you need to investigate what your insurance company expects from you. That water damage might not be covered if no one is there to discover it for a few days. Some homeowner’s policies require someone to be in the house every day (or at least every other day) for coverage to be effective.
And leave the house sitter with some direction on how to deal with an emergency or to get ahold of you if there is one. Leave some suggestions for a handyman if an emergency repair is needed, and maybe even a way to pay that guy – a credit card number or something, if needed.
6 – Inspect that passport
Many countries require your passport to be valid for at least 6 months at the time of your arrival. Many countries also require a travel visa. Check the list of countries requiring visas for US citizens here. Canadians can check here.
Applying for a travel visa is usually easy and can usually be done online.
Tips for traveling safe
7 – Some things should NEVER go in checked bags.
Imagine landing at 11:00 at night, coming home from your vacation, only to discover your luggage got lost on the way home and your car keys are in one of those suitcases – at an airport not near you.
Yup. There are SOME things you should ALWAYS take in your carry-on bag. You’ll will have your passport with you (you should, anyway). But there are other items you should always take in carry-on, just in case.
- Consider this list of items you should always take in your carry-on luggage and never check: your phone charger and cables;
- house and car keys;
- A water bottle (empty, to get through screening) and then fill it up after security – saves cash on buying water for $3.00 per bottle in the airport;
- An emergency toiletry kit (at least a toothbrush and comb);
- A couple days’ worth of medications in case your checked bags go AWOL for a bit.
8 – You Have Rental Insurance Coverage On Your Credit Cards. (Get It Anyway.)
Or, you’ll at least want to give it some serious thought. Here’s why.
While many credit cards provide rental car insurance coverage and flight cancellation insurance, you need to know the mechanics of how it works, and what is or isn’t covered.
First of all, remember that you must charge everything on that card that you want covered. In other words, your flight cancellation is covered if you charge the tickets on the card. But your rental car coverage isn’t covered unless you charge the car rental on the card, too.
In other words, anything you want covered has to be charged on the card. Probably obvious. And so far, so good.
But, as with many things, the devil is in the details.
For instance, you need to be aware that if there is a cost for a dent or a cracked windshield, your card is charged for the repair and a claim is submitted to the insurance carrier for the card. You get reimbursed after they process the claim.
Keep that in mind. Maybe not such a big deal for a cracked windshield. But for a rollover in a snowstorm, it might be good to remember that discretion is the better part of valor.
And sometimes the claim can take a bit of time to settle; in which case, you’re responsible for interest that may accrue while the charge is on your card through a billing cycle.
So be sure you’re prepared for the cash-flow. If you’re not, you might just want to buy the coverage anyway.
9 – Keep Your Hands In Your Pockets
Actually, the idea is to keep other people’s hands out of your pockets. But if your hands are in there, theirs don’t fit.
Seriously, though, pickpocketing has decreased in North America but is on the rise in places like Europe. Anyone who has travelled in Europe lately can testify to the remains of stolen wallets and purses you’ll see in the streets.
And the thieves are not your “usual suspects.” They work in groups, often using children for distraction. They frequent tourist attractions and public transportation. So be aware of your surroundings.
But for some basic tips to avoid being “picked,”
- Keep your wallet in your front pocket, not your back
- Better yet, keep it in a zipped, inside pocket if you can
- Keep a “fake wallet” in your pocket to distract them
- Keep your purse under your arm, not hanging from the handle
- leave your valuables at the hotel, if possible. Ask to leave them at the front desk. Or, use your room’s built-in safe if there is one.
- “Don’t carry it any time you don’t need it” is a good rule of thumb.
Or maybe, leave it home.
10 – Do You Really Want To Go There?
When considering a destination, discretion is the better part of valor.
Some places like New York City were unsafe to visit back in the 70’s but are pretty safe for tourists now. Other places – such as Paris, for instance – have developed reputations as areas historically considered perfectly safe but are now suspect, especially for women.
Times change. In short, do your homework.
Check travel safety ratings at the US advisory service or Canada’s travel advisory. Search for advisories and warnings based on destination.
11 – Booking Excursions: Something You Need To Know..
If you’re venturing out from a port of call on a cruise, it’s safer to stay with excursions organized by the cruise ship. The primary reason for this? They’ll wait for you if you’re late getting back.
If you want the flexibility and choice of booking excursions independently, then book with a company like Shore Trips. They will take care of you in the unlikely event that you miss your port of call.
12 – It’s what you don’t know about the laws where you are going that can hurt you.
A Canadian woman recently travelled from Canada into Blaine, WA and is now banned for life from entering the US. Her “crime?” She was carrying CBD oil. It’s a derivative of marijuana.
The thing is, it is legal for her to possess CBD oil in Canada. But it is illegal under US federal law. So when the federal agent (CBP) caught her with it, they banned her from entry into the US – for life.
Ask your travel agent or search the web for laws you need to know about at your destination.
13 – Discretion Is The Better Part Of Valor
Facebook is fun. But hold off on posting those pics until you get back. Those pics of you and your significant other in front of Buckingham Castle lets people who are so inclined know that if you’re in England, then you’re not home. Don’t advertise an empty house.
The family needs to know you’re away. The rest of the world can wait until you’re back to find out.
Tips for travelling healthy
14 – Relax And Enjoy The Trip (Except for Once In A While).
It is a vacation. So relax. Enjoy the travel. But once in a while, you really do have to get up and move.
When riding a train or flying a long-distance flight, is that it is essential to get up and walk around periodically to avoid blood clots. Getting up to move around for a few minutes (even a walk to the restroom and back) every couple of hours.
This is even more important for seniors. Move a bit every hour if you can. It can save your life.
15 – Travel health insurance costs more for seniors. Get It Anyway.
The truth is you’re more likely to need it.
Look. Everyone appreciates the benefit of saving a buck. But statistically speaking, if you can afford to go on vacation, you should probably shell out for the travel insurance.
It might cost as much as an extra night in a motel room. But a catastrophic emergency bill could destroy your retirement fund. Or, at least, make sure your current benefit plan (if you have one) covers out-of-country hospital bills.
Reviews.com lists the best plans for out-of-country coverage. Better looking at it than looking for it.
16 – Don’t Forget Your Meds (Especially The Meds You Don’t Need).
You’ve been doing this long enough to know to take your medications with you. But what you’ll want to do is think of the “irregular” medications you usually don’t need. And if you do, you’ll be glad you have them.
Think of it as a mini “medical essentials” kit. No one can anticipate or prepare for any and all serious medical emergencies. But packing some essentials can be a real bonus if you need any of these more common ones. (And chances are you’ll need at least one.)
Bring the following:
- aspirin (just-in-case, for chest pain)
- Tylenol – for headaches or back/knee aches;
- a few bandaids;
- some antibiotic cream;
- sunburn cream;
- some antacid and anti-diarrhea meds (for those unusual foods on the trip);
- an antihistamine for bee stings or bad sunburns.
They don’t take much room and you’ll hopefully not need them. But if you do, you’ll be glad you did.
Ok. We admit it. That was a lot of stuff to think about. So is it worth the trouble?
Perhaps you’re wondering if a trip is even worth it. Just worrying about all the prep beforehand can all seem so… stressful.
In your younger years, it was easier to take all this kind of preparation in stride. But as you get older, you’re perhaps more inclined to be more bothered by all the little things you have to worry about to travel well and trouble free.
But travelling is worth the trouble.
When you weigh it all out, travelling is just plain good for you.
It’s true. Preparing for the trip takes some planning.
But travelling keeps you active. And being active is better for your body and your mind.
Keeping physically active is good for lowering blood pressure, reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke and many other complications that often come with age. A vacation can do that for you.
And travelling can change your life by strengthening existing friendships or making a way for you to make new ones. Keeping your brain stimulated with new experiences and adventures keeps your brain healthy, too, as you encounter new people, cultures and environments.
So, yes. It’s worth it. It’s definitely worth it.
If you do your homework, you’ll rest easy as you travel in comfort.
As an older traveller, you’re probably not into an adrenaline rush. And you don’t need one from unexpected surprises, either.
But vacations can still be fun and refreshing. If you follow the tips above and follow the links to the information we’ve sourced for you, you should be able to travel well, enjoying that cappucino and watching the gondolas going by, knowing that you’ve got all the bases covered.
And those memories will last a lifetime. Sometimes good vacation memories alone can change your outlook on life for the rest of your life.